Kiruhura murders: Flaws in the judgment

Saturday August 1 2020

 

By Dr Sylvester Onzivua

In any criminal trial one of the cardinal ingredients to be proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt is the fact that the accused person or persons participated directly or indirectly in the commission of the crime.
Court, on December 1, 2015 convicted three men, James Asiimwe, Nathan Mugooha alias Juju and Amon Twabagye alias Bujoro of the death of Daniel Karuhanga and five of his workers.
Ordeal
The cardinal question in the case is, did prosecution truly prove beyond reasonable doubt that these three persons participated in causing the deaths of these six people on the night of Friday August 16, 2013 in Kiruhura?
Part of the evidence used to convict the three men was the charge and caution statement that one of them is supposed to have made.

In the statement, Asiimwe denied participating in the murder but admitted raping Karuhanga’s grand-daughter. Asiimwe also admitted to knowing Juju, his co-accused with whom they used to meet at the watering point for cattle.

Juju reportedly wanted Asiimwe to kill for him people who had grabbed his land. Two weeks after the initial plan was hatched, they travelled with Juju to meet Bujoro who came driving a Toyota Premio which they then boarded to travel to the scene of crime. According to the statement there were four other people in the car.
‘Compelled to commit crime’

At the scene of crime, Asiimwe in his statement said that he stayed in the car and after sometime, Juju came back with a girl. Juju is then supposed to have ordered Asiimwe to have sexual intercourse with the girl under threats to be killed if he did not do so.

Asiimwe purportedly stated “She was leaning against the vehicle and Juju lifted her clothes up and put a machete on her neck, threatening her. Out of fear I raped the girl”. Further, according to the statement, after Asiimwe had finished raping the girl, Juju and Bujoro took her back and when they returned, they all boarded the Premio and left, leaving another vehicle behind at the scene.

Asiimwe disowned the statement and told court that he was tortured and coerced into signing this statement, a statement he had no idea of. According to him, this charge and caution statement was a pure concoction and fabrication of the police.
Witness statement
The witness statement of the girl who was raped and her testimony in court was far different from the events as captured in the charge and caution statement.

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The student told court that she saw her grandfather being killed. She said that after the assailant had killed her grandfather, he locked them in the house and went out to fight with one of the workers.

After he killed the worker, the assailant once again came into the house and demanded for the papers of the car and money. He also searched a suitcase that was under the bed and removed an army uniform from it.
He took these to the car and came back a third time and then told her “You come here.”

The witness told court that the assailant took her outside, up to her grandfather’s car, which was a Toyota Spacio, light blue in colour. The assailant then opened the back door of the car and told her “sleep here”.

The girl stated in court that she kept standing but the assailant threatened her “Do you also want me to cut you the way I have cut them?” In her own words the student said “I slept in the car and he told me to remove my knickers and after removing it he defiled me”.

On September 20, 2013 a high-powered police investigation team brought Asiimwe to the scene of crime in order to re-construct what had taken place on the night of August 16 that year.

This evidence was video recorded. Asiimwe told the investigators that he raped the girl on the farm while the girl said she was raped in her grandfather’s car. Who then should the court have believed, the girl who was raped or the man who said he was tortured and made to sign a statement he had no idea about?

There was also an issue of identification. The assailant was seen by three people none of whom could positively identify him.

The student failed to identify the assailant in several identification parades shortly after the killings but was able to identify Asiimwe as the assailant in court.

During cross-examination the student told court that the assailant resembled Asiimwe. She apparently identified him by the light of the touch that the assailant was carrying.

The defence lawyers tacitly raised a doubt when they pointed out that the assailant was not pointing the touch on his own face, making positive identification difficult.
The widow, who also witnessed the killing of her husband told court that she did not and could not identify the assailant.

Next: The conclusion

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